Coaching Youth Storytellers by Kevin Cordi

Kevin Cordi tells stories in a school.

By Kevin Cordi

As you continue to work with students they will to come to you to help them with their stories At this point you take on the role of the student’s “coach.” However, unlike a football or volleyball coach where he or she is concerned about the team, the storytelling coach gears their session based not on a group’s need, but the teller. The term coach can also in some cases illicit bad memories of someone who berated another for their inability or inexperience. This is not the role of the Storytelling Coach. A Storytelling Coach assists the teller in finding new ways to improving the story.

You do not have to be a Professional Storyteller to coach a student. All is required is that the coach is a good listener and the student is involved in the process.

Some general guidelines need to be following when coaching student storytellers.
1. All students can tell/listen to stories.
All students regardless of age or ability can listen and tell stories. Every student starts at a different place in the process.

2. All students can receive and give praise and constructive ideas. Ideas are new ways of thinking of old ways.
Students need to realize that coaching is a positive experience. It is a good idea of to model good coaching which is explained below.
3. Students naturally love stories and want to improve when telling them.
When students are telling stories they will ask their peers and their adult leader or coach to help them. As long as students know that positive feedback and constructive suggestions will be given and he or she will not be embarrassed by the situation.
4. The story is not as important as the teller. Remember you are coaching living people with real feelings.
Sometimes a student is not ready to be coached. Never force them to engage in a coaching session. Instead, wait until the student asks you to help them. Students must feel that they are contributing to the coaching process and their feelings will not be neglected.
5. Sometimes the reason you want to hear the story is not the same as the student.
It is always good to ask the student “Why are they telling the story?” Sometimes they will be telling it for their mother, for a special occasion, because they like the character. From these questions, more coaching direction can develop.
6. Story is about Sharing.
It is essential to remember the purpose of coaching a story or a teller is so that can have a good experience sharing their story. It is not to make them perfect, but instead explore new ways to tell or enhance the story.

When coaching youth to tell stories, remember there are three methods that will work.
**Note depending on how young the child is you may want to spend more time just on telling before you rush into a coaching session. Often children need just to tell stories until they feel competent as a teller. Only then should you suggest coaching.

1. Student to Whole Group—This is a good way to start. Before a student starts a story he or she will inform the group if he would like suggestions. However the suggestions only come after each student who wants to praising the story. If the story suggestions are coupled with praise, often the student only hears the suggestion.

2. Peer to Peer Coaching–This is where a student will listen to the story another student is telling. However, before the telling, a student will ask for specific suggestion on various parts of the story or the telling. A student might ask for a special focus on something in the plot or if a character sounds like a giant or a little girl afraid of the dark. However, remember praise always comes first. Only then can suggestions be encouraged.

3. Adult to Student–This is a time when a student who is more experienced wants coaching from an adult leader. Make sure to have the student sign up for the coaching and that a designated time, usually an hour, can be provided with no distractions. This personal approach can really help build the skills of a teller.

When coaching youth to tell stories, one should follow these steps.

1. Begin by asking what the tellers would like to receive when the coaching has been completed.
2. Always give specific praise first. Merely saying “good job” does not give the student direction for improvement. Instead saying something like “I really enjoyed the sound that you made for the wolf and it was enhanced by the snarl.”
3. Delicately choose your improvement words. Students can be very sensitive when listening to coaching.
4. Stop when the teller says stop. The student should control the coaching and has the latitude to quit the session if he or she is uncomfortable.
5. Encourage students that they can and allowed to make mistakes.
6. Let the teller walk out of the session with new direction for the next time they tell the story.
7. Remember there is no right or wrong way in telling, only better over time.
8. Story creates community and if you know someone story, you begin to know him or her.
9. Always leave room for new ideas.

Coaching is an enjoyable experience. You will soon find from proper positive coaching that students will not only be telling stories, but will be improving with each telling. Being a good coach makes a world of difference.

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